Dark horses to make it to Atlanta

Originally Published: August 17, 2006
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

We took a quick peek in April and another in June. Now, as we continue through Summer Session, it's time to take our annual late-summer look at who we think will be the elite teams in the 2006-07 season.

If you missed them earlier this week, here are teams 21-30, teams 31-40 and teams 41-50. Below, we have 10 teams we like as dark horse threats for the Final Four:

20. Marquette
MarquetteWhat we like: The Golden Eagles could be the new Villanova, with three guards you must take notice of in Dominic James, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal.

What concerns us: These three got plenty of shots because of Steve Novak and now he's gone to the NBA. The big men must be more consistent.

Power-rating push: The Golden Eagles could play Duke, Stanford, Air Force or Texas Tech in Kansas City. Playing in-state rival Wisconsin in Milwaukee will be one of the toughest tests of the season.

19. Washington
WashingtonWhat we like: The Huskies did lose Brandon Roy but still have a core group returning and they added the next-best big man (outside of Greg Oden) in Spencer Hawes.

What concerns us: Experience will be a factor with this squad, even with the help of its great home-court atmosphere.

Power-rating push: The Huskies play LSU at home and Gonzaga and Pitt on the road. That's a tall order outside of the Pac-10 schedule.

18. Gonzaga
GonzagaWhat we like: GU is usually known as Guard U and this season shouldn't be any different with Derek Raivio, Jeremy Pargo and Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes as the focal point. Josh Heytvelt isn't too shabby as a post presence, either.

What concerns us: Losing Adam Morrison is no joke. The Zags, as good as they have been year in and year out since 1999, still need to come up with a go-to guy.

Power-rating push: Need you ask? The Zags play Duke in New York on Dec. 21, will face some combo of North Carolina, Indiana and Tennessee (two of three) in New York for the NIT Season Tip-Off, and play Memphis at home, at Stanford and Virginia and against Washington in Spokane.

17. Georgia Tech
Ga TechWhat we like: The Yellow Jackets added a pair of studs in Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton to go along with a team that was close to being a postseason squad a year ago.

What concerns us: Finishing games. Coach Paul Hewitt projected the Yellow Jackets would struggle last season in the final five minutes. He was prophetic.

Power-rating push: Georgia Tech is in the Maui field we've discussed and that will give us a good indicator before Thanksgiving where this team stands.

16. Memphis
MemphisWhat we like: The Tigers may have lost Darius Washington, Rodney Carney and Shawne Williams but they still have the most talent in C-USA with Chris Douglas-Roberts, Robert Dozier, Joey Dorsey, Antonio Anderson, Andre Allen and a big-time talent arriving in Willie Kemp.

What concerns us: There is a leadership vacuum without Carney, and the bench won't be as experienced either.

Power-rating push: The Tigers once again are playing anyone they can during the nonconference season, starting out with the Maui Invitational and potential games against Purdue, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Kentucky and DePaul. A February trip to play Gonzaga will be a challenge during the C-USA season.

15. Alabama
BamaWhat we like: The Tide bring back one of the top point guards in the country in Ronald Steele and a versatile, hard-to-match-up forward in Jermareo Davidson.

What concerns us: The reserves will be inexperienced and the Tide must play two of the top five teams in the country a total of three times -- LSU twice and Florida once.

Power-rating push: The Paradise Jam will be a decent gauge for the Tide early, with potential games against Villanova, Xavier and Toledo.

14. Connecticut
UConnWhat we like: The Huskies loaded up with one of their best recruiting classes ever, including a freakish shot-blocker in 7-3 Hasheem Thabeet. Jim Calhoun is hungry to mold this team into a title contender.

What concerns us: Other than Jeff Adrien, Marcus Johnson and Craig Austrie, the Huskies are incredibly green.

Power-rating push: UConn goes to LSU, gets Indiana at home and plays Georgia Tech on the road. That's not bad for a team in transition.

13. Boston College
BCWhat we like: Jared Dudley is still one of the toughest players to keep out of the lane and off the glass. Sean Williams could lead the ACC in blocked shots. Sean Marshall is an experienced wing. Tyrese Rice is a big-time scorer at the point.

What concerns us: There is no backup behind Rice at the point. None.

Power-rating push: The Eagles play Michigan State at home in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and have a game at Kansas. That's plenty of power before the ACC.

12. Duke
DukeWhat we like: The Blue Devils still have one of the best forwards in the country in Josh McRoberts, a deft passing playmaker in Greg Paulus, an athletic wing in DeMarcus Nelson and a stellar recruiting class.

What concerns us: This is still an inexperienced team overall and finding a reliable perimeter threat will be a priority.

Power-rating push: Duke always has a solid nonconference slate. This season's no exception with the possibility of playing Texas Tech, Stanford, Air Force or Marquette in Kansas City, as well as Indiana at home and Gonzaga in New York.

11. UCLA
UCLAWhat we like: The Bruins still have a core group that got to the title game including Arron Afflalo, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Lorenzo Mata and Alfred Aboya. Getting Josh Shipp healthy and handing the point guard role to Darren Collison will change this team -- possibly for the better.

What concerns us: Collison was Jordan Farmar's backup, so point depth could be an issue and being the hunted all year won't be any fun.

Power-rating push: Playing in a loaded Maui field, where seven of the eight teams could win it, and facing A&M in the Wooden Classic give the Bruins early NCAA-like tests.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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